Tag Archives: Jerry Napp

Weeki Wachee – SUP Paradise

By Pete Williams

Author Pete Williams, followed by Jerry Napp and Scott Bragan, paddles up the Weeki Wachee River

WEEKI WACHEE – Ten minutes after leaving the dock, we had gone back in time. Traveling up the twisting, turning Weeki Wachee River, battling a strong downward current on stand-up paddleboards, our view was not unlike that of the Seminole Indians who dubbed the river “Weeki Wachee” (windy river).

The river, relatively low this time of year, is rarely more than 50 feet wide and in most parts bracketed by hardwood canopies. The water alternates between green and teal and always clear enough to see the sandy bottom, to say nothing of turtles, countless fish, and the occasional manatee.

For most of our three-hour journey, between 8 and 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning, we see nobody. The few homes along the five-mile route are hidden far beyond the foliage. It’s a natural, tropical setting that seems like it belongs in the Caribbean or a South American rain forest rather than an hour northwest of downtown Tampa.

Scott Bragan (left) and Pete Williams stop for water

“Just look at this,” says Jerry Napp, our guide and the co-owner of Sup Weeki. “Places like this seem like the reason stand-up paddleboarding exists.”

Last year Napp and his wife Pam discovered both SUP and “the Weeki,” selling their longtime home in Tarpon Springs and moving a half hour north. While keeping their day jobs – he has worked in the fitness industry for more than 30 years – they launched Sup Weeki off the back dock of their new home.

Most Tampa Bay residents are familiar with Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, which since 1947 has featured a mermaid show, drawing tourists to the attraction at the corner of US 19 and State Road 50, just north of Spring Hill. Some check out the adjacent Buccaneer Bay water park with its pools and water slides. Others launch canoes and kayaks and float four-plus miles down the Weeki.

Underwater view of paddleboarding ‘The Weeki’

Napp, an avid runner and triathlete who I swam with for three years as part of a masters swim program, is happy to meet clients at the park and launch stand-up paddleboards headed downriver. SUP is still new enough that few have enjoyed that experience. But he figured endurance nuts like me would prefer to paddle upriver.

He was right, though I had second thoughts at first. After paddling a quarter-mile along a canal from Napp’s home past trailers and tear-downs that are being replaced by newer homes, we turned left into a tough current. It felt like one of those snorkel swim drills we used to do where we were tethered to a starting block and required to swim in place.

We were looking at two hours of this. I felt bad for Scott Bragan, 44, another avid triathlete who joined us for only his third stand-up paddling experience. But Scott was a natural and we quickly fell into a slow but steady rhythm heading upriver, spotting sheephead, trout and the occasional turtle while ducking the occasional hanging branch.

Jerry Napp embraces the challenge of swimming upriver

The winding river and frequent sandbars make it a technical course, adding to the degree of difficulty. I had never done any upriver distance paddling and found it helped, as in cycling, to fall in single file and take advantage of drafting.

Napp is the fittest 55-year-old on the planet, a Wisconsin native who looks at least a decade younger. Having spent his career in sales and training endurance athletes, he also has the gift of gab, along with a lengthy list of fitness certifications, including NASM (his current employer), and Brody Welte’s Paddle Fit.

All of which makes Napp a perfect SUP guide. As we maneuvered up the Weeki with our Quickblade paddles and 11-foot-6 NSP soft-top boards, Napp detailed the area’s rich history. We passed the tiered remnants of what was once an amphitheater for water shows. The narrow river, which at times requires some tricky maneuvering to avoid running the boards aground, is Coast Guard navigable. That means there can be small boat traffic, though thankfully none this day.

It takes us about two hours to reach the spring head adjacent to Buccaneer Bay. It’s a course Napp usually does alone since most of his customers, new to SUP, prefer either the downriver course or a much shorter upriver trip.

The ride home, of course, is much faster. We fly along at a conversational pace, with room to push harder. Napp casually mentions that he’d like to swim the five-mile course.

“I could maybe handle that with some training,” I said, figuring the many sandbars would provide breaks and I could float down the river when I got tired.

Then I realized Napp wanted to swim upriver.

We continued to pass the occasional rope swings dangling from trees. The water can be 15 feet deep or more at points. Unfortunately, the combination of rickety tree ladders and the disregard of the no-alcohol policy on the river has lead to injuries.

As we neared the end of the hour-long return trip, Napp apologized that it wasn’t manatee season. He and Pam spot them regularly off their dock in the winter. As if on cue, a young manatee appeared. Like dolphins, manatee seem fascinated by paddleboards, swimming underneath them.

By the time we reached Napp’s dock, our “workout” was three hours old. It dawned on me that it was probably my toughest board workout ever, though it sure didn’t seem that way.

No, it was just another enjoyable day on The Weeki.

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The Journalist/Certified Personal Trainer

By Pete Williams

A new NASM certified personal trainer

As of this afternoon, I’m certified to train athletes, interview them about their performance, and write stories about them. That makes me something of a hybrid professional freak: the journalist/trainer.

Actually, I have no intention of training athletes, though it’s nice to know I could. I’m now a certified personal trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), one of the most prestigious certifying bodies in the world of fitness. By passing a 120-question, multiple-choice test that seemed to be written in Greek, I’ve added a distinguished credential to my fitness journalist resume, which includes Paddle Fit certification, the premier stand-up paddleboarding credential I earned last year.

The NASM CPT wasn’t easy. After nearly six months of off-and-on study and obtaining a CPR/AED certification, I tested for the CPT at the Clearwater Air Park, of all places. The small FBO airport has a 3,500-foot runway and a side business of certification testing, offering more than 100 exams for would-be teachers, real estate agents, personal trainers, and other professionals. At the check-in desk was a sign listing the airport’s rates. I could rent a Cessna for $98 an hour – were I qualified to fly.

First, the CPT exam. I’ve long been envious of people in the fitness world with a lot of acronyms after their names. I write fitness-related books and articles and when I interview people with certain credentials, I know I’m going to get a wealth of insight and wisdom.

But I’ve always wanted to earn a respected fitness credential to further my knowledge and bring more credibility to my work as a journalist. Not a physical therapy degree or masters in exercise science. Those are rigorous degree programs that take years. Certifications, however, can take as little as six months.

For those who have graduated with degrees in exercise science, kinesiology, or athletic training, passing a test to become a NASM CPT probably is no more difficult than a law school graduate tackling the bar exam.

For the rest of us, it’s more challenging to get up to speed on exercise science, anatomy, and human movement, to say nothing of learning all of the key concepts behind every aspect of training: balance, speed, core, plyometrics, agility, quickness, resistance, and cardiorespiratory. The study guide for the NASM CPT program is a whopping 623-page book called NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. It comes with a handy, interactive chapter-by-chapter online study guide.

I was relieved to find a lot of the material familiar, having had the honor of writing five Core Performance books with Mark Verstegen and his staff at Athletes’ Performance. Mark, perhaps more than anyone, popularized the idea of core training.

Since starting work on that book nearly 10 years ago, I’ve learned a second language, the same tongue used in the NASM training guide. I know terms like proprioception and reciprocal inhibition. I already could identify the three planes of movement (sagittal, frontal, transverse) the importance of active isolated stretching, and how to define three heartrate zones. I know the difference between abductors and adductors, why the transverse abdominis is so important, and why I have to work so hard on eliminating muscle imbalances throughout my kinetic chain because of an ankle I jacked in high school basketball.

Still, I might have been hard pressed three months ago to explain the difference between the gastrocnemius and the soleus or how upper crossed syndrome is different than lower crossed syndrome. I knew my gluteus medius from my gluteus maximus, but might not have been able to point out my biceps femoris and psoas, even though I must work tight hamstrings and hip flexors constantly.

So I felt pretty confident heading into my exam cubicle, which included a pair of earplugs in case the sound of Cessnas became annoying. I knew the 120-exam question would include 20 sample questions that didn’t count. They probably would seem off the wall, not necessarily pertaining to anything in the 623-page book, and would be spread out throughout the exam. I’d have no idea which ones they were.

Unfortunately, most of the exam seemed like sample questions. There were few gimmes, and it seemed like I was taking educated guesses at most, typically eliminating two of the four choices and agonizing over the last two. I had to get 70 of the actual 100 questions correct, though I’d only be told if I passed or failed.

It’s been some time since I took a lengthy standardized test, though I took many online practice NASM CPT exams, which were far easier. As I exited the cubicle, I didn’t feel too confident. If I failed, I’d have to pay $199 for a retest. I glanced at the Air Park menu. Maybe I could just rent a Cessna for two hours.

The proctor/Air Park receptionist printed out my results and emerged from behind her desk stone faced. She’s probably been trained to show no emotion, I figured, not wanting people to feel any worse.

“Congratulations,” she said, handing over the paper.

I left pumped, not ready for the Cessna but certainly ready to fly.

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Working Toward a NASM Certification

By Pete Williams

Future NASM certified personal trainer

I’ve long been envious of people in the fitness world with a lot of acronyms after their names. I write fitness-related books and articles and when I interview people with certain credentials, I know I’m going to get a wealth of insight and wisdom.

But I’ve always wanted to earn a respected fitness credential to further my knowledge and bring more credibility to my work as a journalist. Not a physical therapy degree or masters in exercise science. Those are rigorous degree programs that take years. Certifications, however, can take as little as six months.

Not that they’re easy to obtain, as I’ve discovered over the last three months studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer by NASM (the National Academy of Sports Medicine). For those who have graduated with degrees in exercise science, kinesiology, or athletic training, passing a test to become a NASM CPT probably is no more difficult than a law school graduate tackling the bar exam.

For the rest of us, it’s more challenging to get up to speed on exercise science, anatomy, and human movement, to say nothing of learning all of the key concepts behind every aspect of training: balance, speed, core, plyometrics, agility, quickness, resistance, and cardiorespiratory. The study guide for the NASM CPT program is a whopping 623-page book called NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. It comes with a handy, interactive chapter-by-chapter online study guide.

I’ve been relieved to find a lot of the material familiar, having had the honor of writing five Core Performance books with Mark Verstegen and his staff at Athletes’ Performance. Mark, perhaps more than anyone, popularized the idea of core training.

Since starting work on that book nearly 10 years ago, I’ve learned a second language, the same tongue used in the NASM training guide. I know terms like proprioception and reciprocal inhibition. I already could identify the three planes of movement (sagittal, frontal, transverse) the importance of active isolated stretching, and how to define three heartrate zones. I know the difference between abductors and adductors, why the transverse abdominis is so important, and why I have to work so hard on eliminating muscle imbalances throughout my kinetic chain because of an ankle I jacked in high school basketball.

Still, I might have been hard pressed three months ago to explain the difference between the gastrocnemius and the soleus or how upper crossed syndrome is different than lower crossed syndrome. I knew my gluteus medius from my gluteus maximus, but might not have been able to point out my biceps femoris and piriformis, even though I must work tight hamstrings and hips constantly.

So my education is a work in progress, taking about an hour a day. Thankfully I have six months to learn the material, obtain an emergency cardiac care (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) certification, and pass the NASM exam.

Once I do that, I’ll hold one of the industry’s most prestigious certifications and be qualified to pursue a career as a fitness professional. I don’t plan to work as a personal trainer, though it’s nice to know that I could. More importantly, I’ll bring more insight to my work as a professional fitness journalist.

The clock is ticking.

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Talking Endurance Sports with Jerry Napp

By Pete Williams

Our guest on the video version of The Fitness Buff Show this week was Jerry Napp, whose background in the endurance sports world spans more than two decades. Jerry’s vast experience includes clinical exercise, corporate fitness, equipment sales and marketing across multiple channels, personal training and coaching. He’s also an accomplished age-group triathlete and runner

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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